Austin Wright to the Bullpen and Converting Starters to Relievers

Today Mike Drago of the Reading Eagle reported that the Phillies will be converting Austin Wright to a full time reliever (Brody Colvin back to the rotation).  The move is one that I thought would come eventually but did not expect right now.  More interesting to the move is what Joe Jordan said which piqued my interest.

Philles are converting Reading’s Austin Wright to the bullpen. He’s 5-5, 6.09 in 16 starts; pitching better lately after DL stint #phillies

Joe Jordan on Austin Wright: “We really feel he’s got a couple pitches that have a chance to play really good out of the bullpen.” #phillies

I have always maintained that a starter is better than a reliever, so to say I happy about this move and support should come as a shock.  I am the guy who has said I think Wright and Ethan Martin (whole will start for the Phillies tomorrow) are relievers long term yet I say that Martin should continue to be a starter.  For me it comes down to ceiling, team need, and proximity.

The difference between Ethan Martin as a starter and Austin Wright as a starter is large.  Martin’s ceiling is a good mid-rotation starter and Austin Wright profiled more as a #4 starter (mostly because you couldn’t project both the changeup and control to come along).  That is probably a two win difference right there.  In the bullpen Martin still has the higher ceiling of as a high leverage reliever and Wright is probably more good middle reliever (though it will be interesting to see how the arsenal plays up).  That on paper looks like a large gap but in reality it is probably not even a win of difference.  Thus I will always support the higher upside arm to stay in the rotation because the payoff is that much larger.

Team need factors in here.  Ethan Martin is pitching well in AAA and Wright is struggling in AA.  That means Ethan Martin has value in a temporary start and Wright has little value to the big league club right now.  Wright in the bullpen moves his ETA up a full year and makes him a player the Phillies could use relatively soon.  This ties into proximity, moving a starter to the bullpen accelerates the timeline for a player.  This means the sooner you do it with a player you know will end up there, the faster you can get them to the majors.  I firmly believe Wright could fight for a job this year, and will definitely be in the mix next year.  The same could be said of Perci Garner who could move very quickly if moved to the bullpen.

Overall though, I don’t know if I am actually consistent on the subject.  It comes down to the individual player involved.  For those of you concerned with Wright’s ceiling, with two plus pitches, a large frame, and left handedness he is a guy that could give multiple good innings at a time out of the middle of the bullpen.  If the fastball plays up more towards plus plus he could be a back of the bullpen high leverage reliever.  Either way Joe Jordan is looking at the resources he has and is moving players towards their long term strengths.

About Matt Winkelman

Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has previously appeared on Phuture Phillies and The Good Phight. You can read his work at Phillies Minor Thoughts

14 thoughts on “Austin Wright to the Bullpen and Converting Starters to Relievers

  1. Well I had always liked Wright but fact is he’s been pretty much terrible this year as a starter. Hopefully the move to reliever will help him out and help out the big club for next year maybe.

  2. I guess Garner gets a shot at double A before they make him a reliever… that ground ball ratio this season is elite though. But that power curve and a heavy fastball would play great in the pen.

  3. Wright was always destined for the Bullpen. No surprise. He is a power left hander with no change-up. You have to be a really special talent, to be a LH starter without a great change-up.

  4. I find the timing a little curious and I guess his lefthandedness plays into it, but Brody Colvin and Perci Garner are both guys I would “give up on” as starters before Wright, just because they’ve been struggling as starters for longer. Oh well. The Phils probably think he could be in play for the major league bullpen sometime next year.

  5. Time to throw all the young pitchers against the wall and see who else slides down the wall. Offseason should be interesting as so many inconsistent players will have more small sample size data to use.

    Wright has to beat out Savery, Diekman for a bullpen spot? Does not seem too difficult.

  6. Hmm, When I think of the starting pitchers whom before the season I had hoped would take a big step forward this year- Wright, Watson, Brady, and Gueller- I have to say, I am pretty disappointed. That being said this is probably a good move for Wright.

      1. jcull – I posted about Brady in General Discussion. He’s rehabbing in Clearwater and was tracking pitches for the GCL Phils yesterday. Spoke to him for 20 minutes or so. He may finish this season in rehab with an outside chance that he returns to Lakewood before the end of the season. I know he’s been throwing though so it doesn’t sound like his ‘injury’ was anything severe

        1. pitchers who miss a chunk of the season and return near the end of the minor league season are potential Arizona Fall League candidates right? You usually don’t send pitchers there who haven’t missed time during the minor league season because of innings limits.

          1. No way they send Brady to AFL. The only get one slot below AA and Brady hasn’t pitched above lo-A. He will likely get innings in the Florida Instructional League

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